Discuss any aspect of the novel that is hard to understand from a contemporary point of view or beliefs that seem outdated to a modern reader.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the fact that Jim is "lucky" might seem outdated to the modern reader.  The conditions of Jim's predicament could very well be more tragic than comic.  Existentially trapped in a job that is not satisfying, but yet needed, surrounded by individuals who lack authentic and sincere conviction, and living in a condition where people use others as a means to an end could constitute the recipe for much in way of pain in Jim's life.  I tend to think that if the novel were seen in the modern academic setting, Jim is not very lucky.  Jim would actually be tragic. I think that this depiction of the academic who is happy and comically settled in leaving the academy might seem outdated.

One of the most essential aspects of Lucky Jim was that it was representative of the campus novel genre.  The campus is shown as benign, something that Jim is able to transcend.  The ending of the novel is one where Jim is liberated from the banality of the campus into a "real world" where he is able to find his voice validated.  Yet, I tend to think that the modern read of individuals who work in the academic setting is far more complex and tragic.  The academic world where ideological battle grounds are firmly established are the least of the challenges experienced.  A setting where teaching is almost viewed with disdain, an atmosphere of "publish or perish," and a condition in which fiscal restraints cause the revocation of tenure and shrinking of departments is more reflective of the campus condition.  At the same time, the people that surround Jim in the collegiate setting seem to be more buffoons and caricatures than anything else.  Margaret is neurotic and seeks to only limit her own sense of being with her fake suicide attempts. Professor Welch is oblivious and seems to be more content with pretending he is at Oxford than trying to get out of the provincial college in which he works.  The real academic setting is one filled with more obstacles and far more intricate challenges.  This is not seeking to lock the academic setting as one comprised solely with negativity and hostility.  Yet, the academic setting that is presented in Amis's work might be seen as more trivial and easy to navigate.  It is for this reason that Jim is able to be seen as "lucky."  He is able to rise above such an environment, able to laugh at it upon on the novel's conclusion.  I would suggest that the modern academic setting has a hold on those who enter it. It is a hold that pulls people into a setting that is far more intricate, sad, and difficult than what Amis shows campus life to be.  

In seeking to articulate campus life and the modern academic setting, David Lodge once wrote, “Perhaps that's what we're all looking for - desire undiluted by habit."  I think that the modern academic is far more tragic than the comic vision that Amis renders.  Such a comic and unified vision of academic life might seem outdated to the modern reader.

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Lucky Jim

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